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Because ASD is not a disease, there is no cure-all or pill that can take away the symptoms and challenges. However, this does not mean there is no hope. There are many options to help a child with ASD become the best they can possibly be.
According to our ASD experts, treatment options come in the form of therapies, medications, and behavior management.
There are no medicines specifically for ASD
There are no medications available to treat the core symptoms of ASD as the cause for ASD itself has not yet been identified by the medical community. Autism affects different children in different ways. That is why a child with ASD is referred to as being “on the spectrum” because there is a wide range of challenges physically, emotionally, and cognitively that can arise with ASD.
There are medications available that can help manage some of these challenges such as attention deficit, severe hyperactivity, and/or seizures.
Other autism treatment options, much more common than medication, are early intervention services (therapy services available to children from birth to age 3), clinical and/or in-home therapy services for sensory and language development usually in the form of occupational therapy and/or speech therapy, behavior approaches such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), and alternative health approaches such as dietary changes, home remedies to improve focus and lessen hyperactivity.
Some parents have explored alternative therapies such as brain balance therapy and music therapy for their children with ASD with some measure of success.
ASD treatment ranges
As autism is a spectrum disorder, the treatment required will be different for each unique individual. Some symptoms will require long-term intervention and management and others may only need short-term action. Some of the potential ASD treatments included are:
- Speech therapy to address a range of speech problems from being non-verbal to having difficulty engaging in conversation
- Occupational therapy to improve body coordination and intermodal functioning
- Physical therapy to work on gross motor skills
- Behavioral therapy as a technique to encourage positive behavior
- Sensory training to help deal with sensory issues relating to sensitivities to sound, light and touch
- Medication to help manage specific symptoms such as hyperactivity or depression
Therapists can help
There is no cure for ASD. It is a life-long disorder that can be managed through cognitive, behavioral, and medication management.
Occupational therapy can help people learn to manage the sensory processing aspects of ASD. Speech therapy and cognitive therapy can help people learn to communicate and interact with others. Feeding therapy can assist those with texture and feeding preferences learn to embrace new foods or foods with mixed textures that may otherwise induce vomiting or gagging. A behavioral specialist can create a plan for your child to help them learn to navigate daily life and deal with the challenges and obstacles created by the disorder.
A TSS, or therapeutic support staff, can help carry out the behavioral plan and give one-on-one attention to mitigate meltdowns and support parenting and school efforts. For non-verbal patients, accommodations such as PECS boards or iPad communication apps can be used to increase communication and decrease frustration.
A developmental pediatrician can help you discover and put together the resources needed to help your child with ASD live their best life.
Be wary of alternative ASD treatments
This topic is a minefield, and as parents of ASD kids, all we want to do is to make their world better. I have heard talks on alternative diets, aromatherapy, and massage techniques and so the list goes on.
It is essential to remember, as with most things to do with ASD, each case is different. There is lots of merit in evaluating diet because, while it may not offer a total solution for your ASD child, it may just ease another distressing symptom.
Whatever treatment you consider, it is always worthwhile looking into whether the treatment is evidence-based, meaning it has been through the rigor of lots of trials and research to validate its effectiveness.
If the answer is yes, then work out whether it would suit your child. If the answer is no, then I can only advise you to be very cautious if you chose to experiment with an alternative treatment.